It is difficult these days to move without a hint of the growing prospect of a united Ireland and a referendum on both sides of the border on the issue before the end of this decade.
or to some fervent nationalists north and south, the demise of the border seems very likely, if not inevitable, while to embattled trade unionists the division of this island may well continue well into the future.
However, there is increasing evidence that some individuals on both sides of this debate are quite willing to be persuaded to support one side or the other. In recent weeks, the pace of debate on this issue has accelerated for the first time since Northern Ireland was formed as a political entity 101 years ago.
Last month we had the Northern Ireland census which confirmed the expected result that the Catholic/Nationalist population only slightly outnumbered the Protestant/Unionist community. We have previously noted here that this result is remarkable because history tells us that the six counties of Northern Ireland that became a political entity within the UK were always based on maintaining a union majority.
The results of the Northern Census now confirm that real change is finally in the air for constitutional structures on the island of Ireland. But it must also be stressed that such constitutional changes need not necessarily involve a binary choice between maintaining partition or moving swiftly towards a united Ireland.
The zealots on both traditionalist sides of the division’s division would have us believe that the future is about a continued six-county North – or an integrated entity encompassing all islands and 32 counties. And the popular fervor in the Southern jurisdiction for a single unified entity appears and continues to be strong.
Or is it really like that? Six out of ten people support a united Ireland, a poll for this publication’s sister newspaper revealed yesterday. But only half would pay additional taxes for it.
This dichotomy tells us that the Irish – South and North – should be mindful of what they atavistically desire and also consider the many options that lie ahead. We also have to face the long list of necessary “harmonisation” measures, from the police to car prices, health and social care, political structures to identity and flags and emblems.
In doing so, it is worth asking a central question: Does it absolutely have to be: Nail the separating door shut permanently – or abolish the border as quickly as possible? Let us recall that this Ireland of North and South has existed for a century – and before that was up to half a century in the making.
The old classic Latin expression: “Festine lente” comes to mind. Literally translated it means “hurry slowly”. A better translation is the old saying, “The more haste, the less speed.”
We must look meticulously at all aspects of this one and remember that any change hinges on the need to unite a vast majority of all people on this island – not just the territory.
Let’s remember John Hume’s maxim: People are divided – not the country.
https://www.independent.ie/opinion/editorial/we-need-serious-but-broad-focus-on-fate-of-partition-42034352.html We need a serious but broad focus on the fate of the partition